Many people associate breeding season with spring time, but depending whether the species is a year-round resident or a migratory visitor, breeding and rearing young can occur anywhere from February and March all the way up until late summer, with some species still rearing young right through September.
Species that are wrapping up their breeding activity tend to disperse – they are no longer tied down to a specific habitat or breeding territory. Having said this, now is the time of year to be on the lookout for species that perhaps you don’t normally see in your yard.
For example, over the last week I have been seeing mountain chickadees in my yard. This is an example of a species that is a year-round resident of the central highlands area, but during breeding season it is generally confined to the higher elevations.
Now that mountain chickadees are finishing up rearing their young, they are leaving their breeding territories and are showing up in more urban settings, such as my yard which is right off of Rosser Street.
Another example of a species that you are likely to see now that breeding is winding down is Bullock’s orioles. It is not uncommon for people to see them in the spring when they first arrive. However, they don’t stay in residential settings for very long. As they prepare to establish a breeding territory they gravitate to their preferred habitat, which is a riparian habitat with old-growth cottonwood trees. Months later, when they are finished rearing their young, they show up again in residential settings before leaving in mid-August.
Last Friday I saw my first rufous hummingbird of the year. This is another example of a species which has finished breeding and is already headed south! Rufous hummingbirds are an absolute marvel. In the spring they pass through the Prescott area very quickly as they move from their winter range in Southern Mexico and Central America and move into North America, many of them going as far north as Alaska where they will breed and rear their young.
The breeding season that far north is very brief, and they are already leaving their northern home, making their way south for the winter. The migration behavior of hummingbirds is a remarkable feat. People tend to think of hummingbirds as being frail because of their size. However, for being so small, they are incredibly tough and hardy. The average weight of a rufous hummingbird is only 3.4 grams, yet they migrate thousands of miles each year when they move between their winter and summer range.
I have heard reports this past week of common nighthawks out at the north shore of Willow Lake by the boat dock. If you are working on adding birds to your 2012 Centennial Challenge list, this would be a good species to get on your list. I personally have not gotten out to the lake to see them yet, and there is a very narrow window of opportunity to see them before they continue to move south. The best time to try and see them is right at sundown.
On a daily basis we get conflicting reports from customers on the level of bird activity they are seeing in their yard. Many folks say they have so many goldfinches that they are being eaten out of house and home. However, the very next customer to walk through the door will comment that they have very few goldfinches! The same can be said for hummingbird numbers.